Reflections From The Road: 3 Years of Travel

Exactly three years ago I landed in Fiji all alone with a rolling backpack, my laptop and the question, “What the heck am I doing?!” scrawled at the top of a journal page. I’d just chucked my job, apartment and life in NYC for an experimental year of traveling and writing, and I was not sure if it was the right decision. Thirty-six months, hundreds of thousands of written words, a few dozen countries and continents, a hundred flights and countless new friends later, I can say with no reservations that I’d do it all again tomorrow.

It was the best decision of my life. It was the best leap of faith I ever made and the smartest absurdly ridiculous thing I ever did.

(I say all this now, with the experience and the decisions and the hand-wringing in the past, to say if you’re thinking of doing something similar, you will have big, scary, gut-wrenching doubts. I sure did. But it was all worth it.)

Enjoying Jacksonville Beach on a balmy December day

Enjoying Jacksonville Beach on a balmy December day

Last year I said 2013 was going to be the Year of Ange, full of goals and dreams and plans and big changes. And it was certainly all of those things.

But 2013 was also different than I was expecting – isn’t it always? – and full of surprises and unexpected thrills and uncharted territory. I found new ways to balance Angie Away with Angie at Home, finding common ground where both my inner domestic homebody and wild world wanderer could both be content and fulfilled. Now I cook and clean and design furniture and spend birthdays and holidays with my family in Jacksonville, but I still get to pack, unpack and experience the joys of travel, too. I have a bed and a couch to call my own for the first time in my life, but still get to check out hotels and destinations quite a bit – in fact, much more than if I were still chained to my desk in New York.

I’m not sure what to call 2014 – perhaps the Year of Intentional Living?

I’m starting fresh in so many ways, but also feeling so much more grounded and balanced than I was at this time last year. While every bit of my life and future may not be figured out, I am stronger, smarter and fitter than I was on Jan. 1, 2013, and as much as it’s in my power, I intend to be stronger, smarter and fitter on Jan. 1, 2015.

Thanksgiving on Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Thanksgiving on Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Highs

Professional Success. When I signed my lease in March, I had no idea how I was going to pay the rent, and now looking back, I can say with gratitude and relief that it’s been as good a year as it could possibly have been. I managed to make more in this year of uncertainty and non-paying clients than I did in my most fiscally successful year as a publicist in NYC. I only have God to thank for that, as so many of my opportunities came out of the clear blue sky, had nothing to do with me and everything to do with divine providence.

I did quite a bit of freelance travel and lifestyle writing and copywriting for websites. I built my blog to be even bigger and better than ever before, writing 91 new posts on AngieAway.com, and I increased my readers and followers quite a bit even though I traveled less. I grew my tiny consulting business from small to sustainable and now have several wonderful social media and PR clients. Professionally it’s been a successful and really, really fun year.

I’ve worked my butt off to be sure, but I’m supporting myself and I am continuing to grow my businesses and offerings. I’ve stayed outside the box I felt like everyone was wanting to stick me in, and I’ve made a fine living doing it. I can’t ask for more than that!

I’m home. For the first time in a long time, I am settled in a place I can call my own. As I sit typing away on my laptop on my very own sofa, I’m aware of just how blessed I am in my cozy setup. (Made ever cozier by the fact that my little sister is squatting with me in this 1-bedroom indefinitely. Good thing we get along, huh?)

I’m still traveling. While I only visited one new country this year, I did check off lots of new places domestically and I returned to Australia for a solid adventure in Queensland. I managed to rack up some serious American Airlines miles, too – Alaska, London and Australia were some decent-sized flights so I’m looking forward to using up some points next year.

Walking across Tower Bridge in London. Never, ever gets old.

Walking across Tower Bridge in London. Never, ever gets old.

London & World Travel Market. Aside from a handful of work trips to Orlando and a Thanksgiving jaunt to Fort Walton Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the only big trip I went on in the past 60 days was to London. Of course it was lovely – London is a perennial favorite, no matter the weather, the reason I’m there or if there’s hot water in my rental apartment or not. (There wasn’t!) 

It was so refreshing to visit with other travelers in town for World Travel Market, catch up with my various London pals and to tour the WB Harry Potter Studios with some of my colleagues from Universal Orlando. I also experienced an Anonymous protest in Parliament Square and saw fireworks illuminate the metropolis on Guy Fawke’s night. It’s a city I regret never living in, but hey… I’ve got a whole life to live, right? You just never know if I’ll end up there one day.

Catching up with friends at WTM

Catching up with friends at WTM

New Year’s Eve. You just never know when New Year’s Eve is going to be awesome or a horrifying debacle, so it was nice that this year’s was a pleasant, low-key but fun night in Downtown Jacksonville with some of my favorite people. Jacksonville really knocked the fireworks out of the park, too!

Lows

A strange man put his bare foot on me on my flight to London. It was gross.

...and of course I took a photo to commemorate this bizarre situation.

…and of course I took a photo to commemorate this bizarre situation.

The Lord gives and takes away. You may recall, I struggled to come up with any real substantial lows during my last Reflections from the Road, and I really should’ve seen what was coming next. As usual just when things seem like they figure themselves out, things spin a bit out of control and you have to start over from scratch.

The past 60 days have been extremely trying personally, made all the more stressful by some huge work deadlines, the added pressures of the holidays, family health crises, a business partner backing out on a deal and my back hurting like crazy. It’ll all be ok in the end, whatever happens, but it has been a bit messy.

Fireworks in Jacksonville to ring in 2014

Fireworks in Jacksonville to ring in 2014

Lessons

Learning to say no. In the past 60 days, I’ve turned down a couple of big opportunities and that’s not something I take lightly, knowing my current feast could easily swing back to famine. That’s freelance life.

I know I don’t want to be a workaholic though, so I had to make the tough decisions. It wasn’t easy, but I feel good about it and know that I wasn’t always in the best place in November and December to take on huge projects. And instead of filling my every free hour with billable work to distract from life’s curve balls, I’ve given myself the room I need to work out and write and decompress and deal appropriately.

Being 30+ is better than expected. When things went wrong in the past, I didn’t always react evenly. But that’s the good thing about being 30+. I feel like I have so much more perspective. Things might be off now, but I’m sure that they’ll right themselves again soon enough.

Picking out a Christmas tree with little sis and Dad

Picking out a Christmas tree with little sis and Dad

Three years have come and gone since I started this journey, and all I can say is I’m awed and grateful and surprised by the overflowing of blessings. Even the bad hasn’t been so bad, and I continue to grow and learn. I should never be so surprised at God’s provision but here I am just wondering how I could ever deserve such a full cup.

Next Steps

                                    We can make our plans but God determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

2014 Planning. It’s amazing how quickly plans can change. Remember 60 days ago when I had 2014 all figured out? Let me just take out my giant eraser and scratch out most of the plan. I had an amazing opportunity to travel in the fall, but for a variety of reasons, I just can’t do it this year. And personal life is a bit wobbly at the moment, too. Again, realistically I know it’ll all work itself out, but darn if the rug didn’t get pulled out from under me just when I thought it was a magic carpet!

So I re-calibrated, made a few smaller goals and now I’m getting on with life.

Next year I’ll be revamping AngieAway.com, adding in new sections for Lifestyle and DIY and focusing on travel to the Caribbean (though who am I kidding? I’ll go anywhere!). And I’ll be very busy the first half of the year with a huge PR project that I literally could not be more excited about. So stay tuned for very fun news from Orlando.

Travel Goals

  • I will do something super awesome involving sharks.
  • I will visit at least 2 new countries.
  • I will see Britney in Las Vegas.

Health Goals
I will focus on taking care of myself and living a healthier lifestyle, keeping up with Weight Watchers, working out 3+ times per week and getting monthly massages. I won’t focus on the scale as much as I have in the past, instead being concerned with what goes in my body rather than what it looks like.

Spiritual Goals

  • I will be more like Jesus. I’ll be kinder, more thoughtful, more merciful and an overall better friend.
  • And I will be nicer to myself.
  • I will volunteer at my church and join a Bible study.

Financial Goals

  • I will get back to budgeting now that my business is successful.
  • I will pay off my student loan.
  • I will save at least 15% and I will donate at least 10% of what I make.

Business Goals

  • I will get more connected in Jacksonville and invest in its people.
  • I will increase my fans & followers by at least 15% across social networks.
  • I will redesign AngieAway.com.
  • I will diversify my offerings and explore new business opportunities.
  • I will post at least 6 times a month.

Miscellaneous Personal Goals

  • I will write the first draft of my book.
  • I will read all the unread books on my shelf, all of the Harry Potter series by June and Geek Girl 3 by Holly Smale when it comes out.
  • I will create an eBook of essays from my time in NYC.
  • I will stop reading celebrity gossip. I don’t care about it anyway and it’s a mindless time suck that I can do without.

So it looks like I’m going to be pretty busy in 2014 – and that’s just with the opportunities I’m aware of right now. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s to expect the unexpected and roll with the punches… so let’s see where this new year takes us, shall we?

Made at Heathrow on my way back to Florida

Made at Heathrow on my way back to Florida

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About Angie Away

Angie Orth is Angie Away, a globe-trekking communications specialist and entrepreneur. In 2010, she left a successful career as a travel publicist in NYC for the unpredictable life of a freelancing digital nomad. She’s passionate about travel, the Florida Gators, Shark Week, trying everything at least once and storytelling here at http://www.angieaway.com.